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NRL: Cowboys and Sharks fight for top two spot

Following the excitement and drama of State of Origin it is back to the bread and butter of the NRL on Friday night with the Cowboys entertaining the Sharks and Parramatta taking on the Warriors.

The Origin decider which saw Queensland take the honours will take some beating but the NRL very rarely disappoints and there are two cracking games to get round 18 of the competition underway.

It is second place against fourth when the North Queensland Cowboys face the Cronulla Sharks in the early kick-off.

The Panthers may be well clear at the top of the ladder but finishing second brings plenty of positives and along with the Melbourne Storm both the Cowboys and Sharks are in the mix to secure the spot.

In the second game of the night sixth-placed Parramatta will be out to boost their top-four hopes when they face a Warriors side that need a result to keep their faint finals hopes alive.

Two exciting games to look forward to so let’s take a closer a look at all four teams involved.

What: North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sharks
Where: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
When: 18:00 (AEST) Friday 15th July 2022
How to watch: Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Cowboys 91/100, Sharks 91/100

You have to go back to 2018 to remember a Cowboys win over the Sharks, who have won the last seven meetings between the two sides.

The Cowboys will be determined to snap the losing streak and are in good touch to do so after winning their last four NRL games to take them to second on the ladder.

They had a bye last weekend but before that they saw off Queensland rivals the Brisbane Broncos by 14 points and should be full of confidence still.

North Queensland also have a solid record on home soil this season when winning six games in front of their own supporters.

The Sharks will prove to be a tough test though as they have been a formidable outfit under new coach Craig Fitzgibbon this season.

Just like the Cowboys, the Sharks are in good form and have also won their last four games. So something will have to give on Friday night.

The most impressive of those four wins came last week when they smashed the Melbourne Storm by 22 points. The Storm had a few out but the win was a big one nonetheless.

Team news: The Cowboys will be without playmaker Tom Dearden who was a revelation for Queensland in their Origin win over New South Wales on Wednesday night. Ben Hampton will come into the halves alongside Chad Townsend.

The Sharks are boosted by the return of both Nicho Hynes and Toby Rudolf who missed last week’s win over the Storm. Siosifa Talakai will play despite featuring for NSW in Origin III.

What: Parramatta Eels v New Zealand Warriors
Where: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
When: 19:55 (AEST) Friday 15th July 2022
How to watch: Channel 9, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Eels 11/100, Warriors 11/2 

Parramatta’s form has been up and down in recent weeks with two wins and two disappointing defeats from the last four games.

There is a bit of work to do to secure their place in the top eight, while they will not have given up hope of chasing down the teams above them to book a spot in the top four.

For that they will need consistency and cannot afford the kind of performances that saw them lose to the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs.

They bounced back last week but it was against a struggling Wests Tigers side. It was a win nonetheless and they will need to go back-to-back against the Warriors.

That may not be as easy as it sounds. The Warriors chances of making the top eight may look slim but they have not given up hope just yet and will battle hard.

They do have plenty to play for as Andrew Webster has been appointed their new coach for the 2023 season and some players will be playing for their future between now and the end of the season.

The Warriors had a bye last week but snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win over the Tigers before the break so will take plenty of heart from that.

Team news: The Eels will be boosted Junior Paulo being able to back-up despite playing State of Origin for New South Wales on Wednesday night. Jake Arthur has not played since round eight but comes back into the fold after being added to the bench.

Ryan Matterson is missing though after failing to recover from the rib injury that also kept him out of the win over the Tigers.

For the Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been ruled out through sickness so Edward Kosi steps into replace him.

Five-eighth Ronald Volkman is also missing through illness, so Chanel Harris-Tavita will replace him in the halves.

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